Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts - game review

Date: 2008-12-04 15:42:00
The review was based on the X360 version.

The season for games, which are in fact extensive and at the same time extremely accessible editors and in practice their main attraction are the creations of the players themselves, is in full swing. To be more specific - the loudest representatives of this trend are: PC Spore and PS3 LittleBigPlanet . The first item is basically a figure editor that will fill the game world, while the second one offers advanced leveling options and extensive modifications to the character's appearance. And to this noble group recently joined Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts , which choose yet another path - in its editorial nature it focuses on vehicles.

There is a slight confusion with Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts . Well, unlike the above-mentioned titles - this is not a new brand. It was born in the form of a platformer on the cult in many circles Nintendo 64 in the years of its greatest splendor, Rare . And for many years its continuation was at the top of the list of the most anticipated positions for many players. Naturally - they follow the same convention as their predecessors. And when the coveted successor finally appears - it turns out that this one is definitely not a platformer.

The story presented in the game shows the title duo (for explanation: Banjo - a bear, Kazooie - a bird sitting in his backpack) in the version "after years of lazy existence": our bears are deprived of condition and they are overweight, resulting from a long absence in the world electronic entertainment (yes, a lot of Rare games are saturated with quite digestible sense of humor and Banjo is no different). Even their worst enemy, the witch Gruntild, suffered from bad form, with only a skull left behind.

This uninteresting state of affairs decides to save a new character in the Banjo-Kazooie universe, the so-called The Count of Games of All (the name of "HGW" - the acronym is very ambiguous). The enigmatic HGW, which is a combination of a cloak and a monitor with a face that is a Pong screen, turns out to be the greatest game developer, and it is one of them that he decides to involve both the duo and the witch. The rules are simple: the bear and the bird are to fulfill a series of challenges set by the Count, and the witch is to stop them.

However, a minor trick in the whole pact is the condition - all tasks must be completed using various vehicles. This is where the vision of a happy platformer begins to crumble. Our duo spends most of the playing time at the controls of some vehicle. There are platformer elements in the game, but they are purely decorative. It's not even that they are impoverished - a teddy bear pulled out of the comfortable seat of a car is doing quite well and probably no other hero of a game with a similar theme would be ashamed of his motor skills, but in Nuts & Bolts these elements do not actually serve any purpose. You can jump, run, attack this and that opponent here, collect a note there - but we will not move the main plot this way.

The general outline of the game is, however, most faithful to the solutions known from other platformers. The game world is based on the main city - Gameplay, from which we set off to smaller lands - to try to meet the tasks prepared by the Count (somehow I cannot convince myself of the HGW shortcut). The main currency, just like the predecessors, are the notes, and the exponent of our progress is the puzzle pieces that unlock access to new worlds.

And while the notes are typical for platformers, scattered around the strangest places and waiting to be collected, we will receive puzzles in almost all cases by completing the tasks waiting for us. These generally consist of passing / passing / passing through checkpoints under designated conditions, transporting someone / something somewhere, or taking part in some military action. And how efficiently we can handle it and what result we get depends largely on our commitment to the garage.

Exactly. Nuts & Bolts is a game for a very specific audience. Recipients who like to tinker over their vehicle in the garage and pamper it in terms of the best performance in a given field. Because the game can be played using projects prepared by the authors, the lowest thresholds necessary to complete various tasks take into account the skill level of the Sunday player, but only garage games show its true potential.

The very process of creating vehicles is very similar to playing with Lego blocks. The garage area is divided into cubic fields, peculiar blocks in which we place selected elements. Their number and variety is really enormous - we can find there various wheels, body parts, egg launchers (i.e. machine guns), springs (allowing e.g. to jump or push off), motors, propellers, sails ... believe the authors, and after spending some time with the game, I see no reason not to believe - there are over 100 different types of parts waiting for the meeting.

The nicest thing, however, is that the game does not limit our creative aspirations in any way. We can, for example, assemble a completely non-functional vehicle - badly balanced or with parts falling off. The most exploited engine - Havoc, is responsible for the "physics" of the game world. However, this one is more like the cartoon one and forgives many mistakes - which the creators of the new Banjo explain by wanting to create a game for a recipient who is not an engineer. On the one hand, it is good, on the other hand it is bad - personally I was a bit irritated by some simplifications, for example regarding the weight distribution.

And here we come to the most important problem with Nuts & Bolts. It's hard to say unequivocally - who exactly the game is intended for. This is true for every aspect of it. Certainly, they must be people who can digest the idyllic atmosphere of the entire production, which suggests that they could be children. However, they may not understand many of the jokes with which the authors give us generous hands in their dialogues, and may also get lost in, after all, an extensive editor.

The idea of having a child in front of the screen is also not favored by the fact that there are no teachers reading the displayed items. All dialogues, although localized, appear in the form of subtitles (for this I have heard voices of complaints about too small, eye-tiring font). The slightly older player may be discouraged by the above-mentioned simplifications in the sphere of "physics" of the game world.

Apart from this somewhat vague identity - it's hard to accuse the latest work of Rare studio with something more. It is certainly a very long production and there is something to do in it - the game consists of 5 worlds, each of which is divided into 6 chapters. Each of them is a true masterpiece when it comes to architecture and performance - they are styled after the Count's works and some of them look as if they were created at home, using a large amount of canvas and metal (something like in LittleBigPlanet - but it's a completely different style). The filmed imitations of animals, such as cows or the stage imitating the interior of the mysterious LogBox 720 console, look particularly charming. Yes, the game is really very nice and takes full advantage of the Xbox 360's capabilities. The only drawback is the overall speed of animations that can drop frames.

Nuts & Bolts naturally uses all the benefits of integrating the console with the Xbox Live service. We can share vehicle designs with other players, compare the results of various challenges in rankings (you can even save replays, which in the case of the best is a must), and compete directly with each other - whether on a split screen (two people will play on one console), or via the network (8 people).

There is a lot of competition: from classic races, through various duels and battles (because you can play in teams), on such unusual inventions as sumo competitions (where we push ourselves out of the ring) or playing football (because playing football with vehicles is rather an avant-garde sport ) ending. Multiplayer is rather a nice addition than the main part of the game - some competitions are not entirely balanced, and often can be frustrating, especially when our vehicle turns out to be completely unsuitable for fighting with enemy vehicles - but you can't actually attach to it.

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is a very unlucky title. It is a really good job - you can see the hand of the Rare specialists. You can see that they did not go the easy way - they perfectly used a well-known brand to promote the new formula in the form of a very good vehicle editor. As to the spite of the prevailing trend, the game is long and extensive, provides long hours of fun for players who like not only single, but also multiplayer initiatives.

On the other hand, there was the marketing side from the beginning - I can bet there will still be a few people who will be surprised by the adopted, non-platform convention. Added to this should be the aforementioned problems with identifying the recipient, although I had a really good time with it myself, it was much more related to my, once loving Lego, nature of the constructor than to the magnetism of the game itself. And finally - many fans of the original formula have certainly disappointed. Especially that the platform elements left behind are really great and remind us how much the Xbox lacks such games.

Nevertheless - Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts will surely satisfy the whole, hopefully small group of enthusiasts who like to play with editors. For security reasons, I advise you to check the game before buying, and the demo version released on Xbox Live is perfect for that. And if it hits your tastes - a lot (and what!) Of great fun awaits you.

Maciej "Von Zay" Makuła